Europe’s economy rests on the confidence between its players, the Hungarian prime minister said in Bratislava/Pozsony on Friday, addressing a conference on the double quality of food products in the European Union.
At the conference entitled Equal Quality Products For All, attended by his Visegrad Four counterparts, Viktor Orbán said that
central Europe was especially “sensitive” to such issues as double food standards due to its communist past.
Many things which may pass as routine or pragmatic in other countries will hurt people’s sense of justice “in our world”, the prime minister said.
In his address, Orban insisted that large international companies were “deceiving” central European consumers “with a dispiriting pettiness”. Citing analyses conducted in Hungary earlier this year, Orbán said that the quality of the same products distributed in western countries was “70 percent different” from those sold in Hungary. He also said that
the problem was not specific to Hungary or central Europe,
and quoted European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as saying that “Europe must not have second-rate consumers”.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, the prime minister called on EU institutions to “protect and enforce” the Schengen agreement and to respect European law.
“A few years ago, Europe’s external borders were closed and its internal borders were open. This now seems to slowly turn around”, Orbán said.
As we wrote on August, discrepancies have been revealed in about a third of 39 identically labelled food products sold in Hungary and in western Europe in the latest quality tests ordered by Farm Minister Sándor Fazekas, the ministry said.
The prime minister outlined Hungary’s position on the future of the bloc. “Hungary’s view — which is consistent with that of the V4 — is that if we want to move forward, then we shouldn’t start by taking a step backwards,” Orban said. Yet today, the EU appears to be going backwards in several areas where it has already made progress, he said. The most obvious example is the fate of the Schengen Area, Orbán added.
EU institutions must comply with the European legal system and return to the Schengen Agreement, the prime minister said.
it was clear that EU institutions had failed: Neither the European Commission, the Council nor the Parliament has protected the Schengen Agreement,
he insisted. “This is why we are where we are today.” Orbán said the EU must not continue this practice.
Orbán said that in his opinion there was no such thing as a “European people”. He argued that Europe was made up of Hungarians, Slovaks, Czechs, Poles, Germans “and quite a few other peoples”. “If we want to strengthen confidence in Europe, its legitimacy, then we’ll need to strengthen member states,” he said. The EC should be a guardian of the bloc’s treaties rather than a “gendarme” of member states, Orbán said. He said EU institutions should preserve the EU’s achievements.
Asked about the government’s nationwide public survey on the so-called Soros plan, Orbán said that the conference had also touched on the issue of migration, adding that this was a subject that is always discussed.
Asked about double standards on food quality in the EU, the prime minister said: “The fact that certain multinational companies want to make us eat garbage” is not only “unacceptable” but also goes against the rules of the EU’s single market.
The EC has a duty to defend the single market, he said, adding that if it failed to do so, member states would have to take it upon themselves to defend it.
“This means that we will wait a little while longer and if the commission doesn’t initiate any legislative procedure, then I will initiate a Hungarian law at the national level,” Orbán said.
The conference was also attended by European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourova, MEPs responsible for agriculture and the single market as well as representatives of consumer protection groups.